The Chattanooga area is known for its biological diversity, but the abundance of bird species that call the region home and migrate through the area may be surprising even to those who think of themselves as nature lovers. For those who have yet to get into birdwatching, we've compiled a few statistics that provide a glimpse at the area's most common species, the places where birds are most frequently observed and surprising facts about their migration.
In addition to being a fun hobby that connects people to nature, birdwatching contributes to scientific research and conservation efforts that benefit the environment as a whole. Citizens who report species observations on birding website eBird provide a statistically significant amount of data that can be used to track the movement, decline or resurgence of a particular species. That information helps direct scientific research into the cause of a species' decline and allows authorities to implement measures to conserve vulnerable populations, according to the site.
If you haven't yet started checking must-see bird species off your birdwatching list, use the following information as your inspiration to make a contribution to citizen science.
Migration by the Numbers
60-100: Hours some birds continue migration in nonstop flights, sometimes spanning oceans and continents
30-45: Minutes migrating birds generally take off after sunset
10,000: Feet above ground migrating birds regularly fly, although seasonal timing and weather conditions drastically affect their distributions
3,870,000: Birds crossed through Hamilton County the night of November 1, 2022
89,000: Approximate minimum number of sandhill cranes (eastern population) that pass through and winter in Tennessee
Local Birding Data
332: Bird species observed in Hamilton County, which has the third greatest number of bird species of all Tennessee counties. Shelby (353 species) and Lake (343 species) counties claim the top two spots.
436: Bird species observed in Tennessee
96: Birding hot spots in Hamilton County. The top three are Chester Frost Park (224 species), Brainerd Levee (220 species) and Baylor School (219 species).
2,137: Birding hot spots in Tennessee. The top hot spots in Tennessee are Ensley Bottoms in Memphis (316 species), the Tennessee National Wildlife Refuge Duck River Unit in New Johnsonville (306 species) and Shelby Farms Park in Memphis (270 species).
Top 20 most common birds in Hamilton County, by number of observations (all-time, year-round):
Northern Cardinal: 33,473
Carolina Chickadee: 28,174
Carolina Wren: 27,527
Mourning Dove: 25,145
Tufted Titmouse: 24,158
Northern Mockingbird: 24,104
American Robin: 23,766
Blue Jay: 23,455
American Crow: 22,562
Downy Woodpecker: 20,560
Eastern Bluebird: 20,367
House Finch: 20,308
Red-bellied Woodpecker: 20,218
Eastern Towhee: 19,564
Song Sparrow: 17,376
European Starling: 16,432
American Goldfinch: 15,405
White-breasted Nuthatch: 13,723
Brown Thrasher: 13,099
Great Blue Heron: 13,028
Source: eBird.org data
Conservation by the Numbers
6: Maximum months of jail time, in addition to a fine of up to $500, for killing a protected bird in Tennessee
100 million: Birds killed every year across North America by collisions with windows
83: Percentage by which bird deaths could be reduced by turning off lights or closing blinds
Fun Facts About Common Bird Species in the Chattanooga Area
Male and female Carolina Chickadees can remain paired for several years, with birds in areas with lower populations less likely to maintain bonds. Nearly all pairs remain together for years in Texas, but only half stay together in Tennessee. Females may seek out a new male in a different territory if a nesting attempt fails.
Often found along area waterways such as lakeshores, streams, ponds and the Tennessee River, Great Blue Herons primarily eat fish and have been known to choke to death trying to eat a fish that is too large to swallow.